While the global pandemic is a heartbreaking period of history that’s seeing many businesses go bust and the world we know is rapidly changing by the minute. With any great disaster comes great change, the coronavirus lockdown is no exception.
The music events industry has taken one of the biggest hits. Artists are unable to tour and the long list of jobs that are affected by this as a knock on effect is huge. The industry is going to rapidly evolve to future proof itself in an effort to avoid the losses we’re currently facing.
I’ve rounded up 5 future trends that are making themselves seen already, so musicians can begin to build a strategy that can keep them ticking, whatever the weather.
While the crossover between gaming and music is nothing new, there are some exciting advances that are bridging the two even closer. And with gaming set to climb from $152 billion to $196 billion by 2022, many of the world’s biggest (and smallest) companies are trying to cash in on a piece of the pie.
Travis Scott’s live performance on Fortnite pulled in an impressive 28 million gamers in a quarantine-safe environment for everybody. With his fan base consisting of exactly the kind of people that enjoy gaming, it was a no-brainer that the collaboration took place.
Major Lazer took to the game for an aftershow where they did the world’s first DJ set live on the platform. Players equipped themselves with Major Lazer virtual merch from the game store and bopped along in the in-game arena.
Brand exposure during these virtual performances is bringing in a new era of advertising. While Travis Scott was wearing his signature Nike Air Jordan 1’s during the Fortnite performance, it places the product in front of millions who are already at their devices, which brings the shopping process closer than before.
Perhaps this is why big artists like Offset are beginning to invest in competitive gaming groups who participate in Fortnite and Call of Duty tournaments. Offering up merchandise as part of their business model, these gaming groups are making big bucks with personality-driven clothing lines alongside their Twitch livestreams and tournament prizes.
Gaming is allowing artists such as Diplo, Wiz Khalifa, The Weeknd and Drake to connect with their fans through a mutual passion. Both the artist and fans are brought closer than ever in a brand new, digital way. Building trust and a sense of community; this new fandom is loyal.
So far this new experience of virtual performance has been limited to mostly male influenced gaming platforms and performed by male artists. Meanwhile, an unexpected 46% of worldwide gamers are actually female. This high number of female players is largely down to mobile games known as ‘time fillers’ rather than cloud-based gaming. However, the potential for in-game shows, across different gaming platforms, by artists from all genres and genders is likely to be massive. Due to the popularity of music live streams exploding through the lockdown months, the gaming industry will see a sharp increase in connecting live shows with the game experience.
For an emerging musician it’s not going to be the easiest thing to get into. However, the earning potential for artists goes beyond virtual live shows. The live streaming platform Twitch is a hotbed for game developers and players collaborating with music producers. The players are using the music in the background while they’re streaming to millions. Twitch is fast becoming a popular platform for music producers to make money streaming studio sessions too.
The job of a record label was to find new talent and grow them into the next big thing. Teams of people marketing, PRing and distributing the product gave artists the tools to reach large audiences.
Thanks to the internet we no longer have to rely on the labels to get music into online stores and into the ears of listeners around the world. And now that popularity is measured in numbers, follower count and streaming numbers are thrusting talent to great heights. The job of a record label’s A&R has become pretty much defunct. Marketing is no longer run by corporate offices and is now being managed by independent artists thanks to the endless information and tools available on the web. The likes of Facebook and Instagram are connecting fans to musicians easier than ever. Releasing music and telling the world about it can be done from a mobile phone in just a few taps.
Record labels need to see a return on investment for their artists and of course the big mainstream artists will continue to need the support of a team around them. However, in 10 years time we will see corporations using artists to sell products for them across social media, TV and beyond. Offering the kind of visibility the label giants do today but in tomorrow’s multimedia world.
For artists who aren’t hitting the mainstream, removing the middleman from the equation makes a lot of sense. The benefits that a record label gave an artist aren’t as important any more, thanks to technology.
With the help of VR, the music comes to us in a special way. VR lets us experience and connect to music more personally than ever before. The use of music in VR has been seeing a lot of interesting developments. There’s a big focus on games, visualizers, and music videos. Creativity knows no boundaries when it comes to what we might expect from VR.
Music fans all over the world soon will no longer need to worry about missing their favourite band because they’ve sold out or live too far away. In the last few years, musicians have been able to stream concerts to virtual reality headsets, allowing fans to enjoy the virtual spectacle from the comfort of their couch.
Not only can fans witness a show from the audience’s perspective, some VR shows let them go backstage too. These kinds of shows are being live streamed on a per ticket basis. This is the future. Living your best fantasy from the safety of home.
As with all technologies, the price is still quite high and will begin to reduce as more devices are being developed. The hardware, software and skills needed to create VR will become more accessible and affordable.
When the next global pandemic strikes, this is one industry that is not going to buckle under. Artists looking to future proof themselves should sign up to newsletters, follow relevant accounts and keep up to speed with developments here. Perhaps even collaborating with an already established VR producer with a really cool idea is possible.
AI / MACHINE LEARNING
Most businesses are investing in AI as it’s essentially a tool to automate tasks. The music industry is also following suit. With artificial intelligence able to harmonize melodies it makes sense that in the future record labels might be interested in using AI rather than lose profits to artists and other humans working a job that can be automated. If AI is able to produce hit after hit, then there’s nothing stopping it.
For AI to learn how to make music it starts analyzing data from different compositions and learns which characteristics make music enjoyable. Google’s Magenta project is already out there which is giving artists a reason to develop their tech skills alongside their knowledge of music. By combining the power of AI with human creativity, the future of music is very exciting.
The future is bright for those looking to acquire technical skills in the area of AI. Recently the Warner Music Group signed the sound startup Endel that uses AI to create personalised tracks. The music is designed to make people more productive or used as a mood booster. While it’s not going to top the charts and make mainstream money, WMG have just signed for a 20 album deal. This is the future.
Record labels, companies, publishers and streaming services all have their own individual, separate databases to keep track of who owns the right to music and where the money is going. They’re not linked together to talk to each other. Leading to a trail of errors and costly misfortunes.
The web of the music industry is vast and ever changing. Blockchain can be used to make sure all the companies and parties involved are sharing the same data. Allowing everybody to be paid their rightful earnings.
Block chains allow pieces of technology to be marked and then be followed all the way through the value chain; even when it ends up at live venues. It will be able to keep track of everything and will give proper payouts to publishers, artists, etc. Essentially it will result in many of the middlemen being cut out because the technology is so transparent and traceable.
Writing music used to literally mean writing notes on a piece of paper. Now of course the shift from analog to digital means that our computers are doing the writing that we’re inputting. The digital revolution in music has meant much easier access to production software resulting in a huge increase in music being made every single minute.
Fast internet speeds have allowed us to collaborate with one another more than ever. Most pop music nowadays can have up to 12 writers working on a track and each person is giving their special skills to the mix. Taking the best parts of something and putting it all together is a sure fire way of creating fine works of art.
There are apps and platforms that allow users to purchase parts of a song — track, melody, lyrics, vocals and so on — that best complement theirs. Artists actively working together to create music through collaborators all over the world. All the while all parties involved are receiving their fair share of earnings.
Even though the music industry will face tough challenges and a lot will change in the next 10 years — it is certainly going to be exciting. Those who are prepared for the changes will need to be equipped with knowledge in tech, if they want to find success in the future. Just as the mp3 replaced the CD, the changes seem radical but they’ll become normal in no time.
Make sure you check out my 5 week masterclass for musicians.